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Microsoft's High-Tech High

With the money usually used for textbooks, Philadelphia's "School of the Future" gives each student a laptop.
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At a high-tech high school in Philadelphia, textbooks and blackboards are out, so are paper and pens. There aren't even books in the library. Everything is done on laptops, reports CBS News Saturday anchor Thalia Assures.

Even the lockers are automated — opened with the swipe of a smartcard. And there's no math or geography class here. It's all integrated.

"One half of the period you're learning math, the other half of the period you're learning science. But it all comes together," said one student.

It may not come as a surprise to learn that Microsoft is involved in the School of the Future. The company had planned to build a "test" school on its Washington campus, but jumped at the chance to get involved in the real thing. It contributed personnel and helped train staff — but didn't pay for the building. This is a Philadelphia public school.

This is a $63 million project, and with so much emphasis on high-tech elements, you might expect that it would be more expensive than traditional schools. Officials say that is not the case.

There are no textbooks to buy: that budget is used to give each kid a laptop to take home. And it's a green building, with solar panels and a roof that will soon be covered with grass.

"We're projecting as much as a 30 to 40 percent reduction in operating costs for this building because of the way this building is designed," says Paul Vallas, CEO School District of Philadelphia.

New school, free laptops, no wonder so many kids want to go there. There's no entrance exam, only a lottery. Fifteen-hundred kids applied, 170 got in — most of them African-American. There is an exit exam of sorts — in order to graduate, they have to apply to college.

"I wanted to go to a good high school. I didn't want to go to my neighborhood high school because would know too many people there and it probably would distract me," said one student.

"My goal in life is to become a climatologist," said another student. "So when I heard about that we weren't going to be using any books here, all our work was going to be on laptops, I was like: 'OK, hey, I think I can benefit from going here.'"

The ultimate test will be whether technology as tutor will actually help students learn.

"In those schools where we've introduced technology into the classrooms in such a way, the children are better behaved, the attendance is much better and the children are doing better academically," says Vallas.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates once called traditional high schools "obsolete." This new school may just prove him right.